Why we invested in Swiftly

By Fabio Lancellotti, Partner at Aster

Swiftly just announced the finalization of their $10m Series A led by VIA ID, Renewal Funds, Wind Capital and Aster to grow its software-as-a-service business for cities’ transportation agencies.

The new funding reinforces Swiftly’s ambition to become a global platform that enables smarter public mobility. We are particularly excited about Swiftly for a few reasons: the market opportunity, the team and their approach.

Big problems bring big opportunities

Cities are growing at remarkable rates, with people from all corners of the world rushing to find the opportunities and experiences that can be challenging to find in rural settings. With this in mind, it is no surprise that six out of every 10 people will be city dwellers by 2030.

But what about moving within cities and around city outskirts? The challenges are obvious, as traditional modes of getting from point A to point B, such as cars, are less and less efficient. In a city like Paris for instance, the average traffic speed is less than 15km/h, and in London it is less than 10km/h. As a consequence, although not always evident, there has been a stark reduction in car utilization within cities: in Paris less than 1/9 trips are done by car and yet traffic is perceived as a growing large problem.

The colorful diffusion of last mile and light vehicle solutions that are filling up city sidewalks is an attempt to tackle the problem. They can be a great alternative for rides within the 1-2 km range, but in cities where the average commuter does more than 5km (in Paris for instance we are above 10km), this is not a feasible solution.

Why do we believe the public transportation systems should and will eventually play a pivotal role in the new mobility city landscape? The picture below can probably provide a few hints

Figure 1: space needs when moving the same number of people by bus, bike and car (Source: Deloitte – city mobility index 2019)

Essentially, buses, trams and city transit trains/metros can be a clean (many cities are increasingly converting their fleets into fully electric/hybrid vehicles) and highly efficient solution to solve congestion issues in ever growing cities.

But of course, there is a catch: public transportation is often perceived as unreliable, lacking real-time information, super crowded during peak hours and hence provides a poor user experience for passengers.

Approach

Swiftly is the first holistic platform available on the planet to enable the sourcing, the treatment and the intelligence of public transit data. And this essential piece was missing until now simply because what you need to provide an excellent customer experience is good data!

On one hand, good data is essential for the operator to understand how they are performing, what needs to be adjusted and how to go about doing so. On the other hand, data is the backbone of any meaningful transparent communication with the end users.

Swiftly is selling a SaaS platform to more than 100 cities worldwide that helps PTOs and PTAs make optimal decisions, to answer questions like “where is the bus currently? When will it arrive at its destination?” with a precision never achieved before and on real-time. Real-time precision is possible thanks to real-time data, which is fed back to customers on 5-10 second refresh cycles, as opposed to minutes for other solutions that are currently deployed.

The result is improved communication with end users and better capabilities for planning operations, as the solution allows for root cause analysis and provides recommendations to address them.

One of the things we like the most is that Swiftly can finally enable a reinforcing virtuous cycle that we all benefit from: better real-time increases rider satisfaction, pushing up the number of riders, which in turn will augment the budget of PTA/PTO, which eventually will generate better and more reliable service over time.

Mobility plays a key role in a city’s economic prosperity and the general wellbeing of its inhabitants. And if the UN’s prediction holds true, having ca. 70% of world population in urban centers[1] will mean that the role to be played will be even more critical as we embrace the future. We are convinced that Swiftly can help citizens of current and future cities to take better advantage of city and mobility infrastructure.

Three co-founders that each independently had some vision in mind

We met the company for the first time more than 2 years ago and found it interesting, but not yet mature enough. However, what we have liked from the outset has been the right mix of skills, vision and approach that each of the three co-founders brings on the table. The company was originally founded in 2014 by Jonny Simkin (now CEO) and Will Dayton (now CTO), and initially focused on developing a consumer-facing transit app. Jonny coming from a consumer background and Will coming from a strong technical and academic background were bringing the right mix of technical competence and user experience approach that constituted the foundation of Swiftly. However, the enterprise/SaaS aspect essential to convince public transportation Operators (PTO) and Authorities (PTA) was missing. And then Mike Smith (now CIO) joined: he had separately founded another company in 2013 called Transitime, which focused on building a platform for Real-Time Passenger Information (RTPI) and transit data analytics.

Since that first meeting, a few conversations, proof points the team was able to bring to the table and some customer chats reinforced our conviction to start working with the Swiftly team as soon as it became practical. We are grateful for the opportunity to co-lead the Series A round and start riding with them on this journey.

Big opportunity ahead: consolidate their market leadership, especially in regions such as Europe where they are relatively less present. This is where we can help. Our goal and mission are now to act as a catalyst thanks to our ecosystem of industrial partners and to stand by the company to support their ambitions of becoming a global leader in strengthening public transit capabilities. Through our Business Hub organization, we will support Swiftly to generate and finalize commercial opportunities within and beyond our family of Corporate Sponsors.

Congrats to Jonny, Will and Mike for what you have been able to accomplish until now and we look forward to joining forces to make Swiftly an amazing success story.

 

[1] https://www.un.org/development/desa/en/news/population/2018-revision-of-world-urbanization-prospects.html